Christian Ministry Helps Women get Lives Back on Track

Jan 27, 2003 10:10 AM EST

CREEDMOOR -- Since 1999, a restored house built in the late 1880s, has been home to 28 women — a maximum of six at a time — who have spent time in a residential program to help them move from drug and alcohol addiction to more productive lives.

Drop in on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll be greeted by one of the "daughters" of this Christian ministry. The women exhibit the grace and charm you might expect in any well-mannered Southern home. They greet, they carry on friendly small talk and bid farewell at the door. No matter how hard their lives and no matter what heavy problems they might have, these women don’t sulk or feel sorry for themselves.

Coming through the formal dining room where the table is set for serving dessert, 35-year-old Kyla Moreno, the first graduate of The Ruth House, stops to talk about her former life and what has happened to her during the past three years.

Moreno now owns and operates a cleaning service called Custom Cleaning. She is proud of her regular customers who allow her to support herself and to pay child support to her former husband for their two children. She also sings in the Christian band Shilo.

"People become users for a lot of different reasons. Mine was self-medication," she said, explaining that she is bipolar and must stay on medication to keep her life on an even keel. "When we come here, Nancy says we are angels with broken wings, but that we can learn to fly. I always remember that Jesus walked with the sick, not with the well."

Nancy Darden, a former teacher and a committed Christian, felt as early as 1992 that God was calling her to establish a special women’s ministry. The Ruth Home is the result. She has poured her life and resources into its operation and into her larger ministry called Angel Spirit Inc., which operates the Mission Store at 206 Main St. in Creedmoor. The store offers inspirational gifts, including a signature collectible doll called the "Child of God."

One of the "daughters" at The Ruth Home works in the Mission Store. Each resident at the home is helped to find a job and asked to pay $125 per week for room and board.

Michelle Hamrick, 37, has lived there for three months. A recovering alcoholic, she started to drink when her week-old baby girl died.

"I lost my spirit and felt that God no longer had any use for me," she said. "I feel safe here and I believe there is hope for all of us."

Hamrick, assistant manager of Dollar Tree in Creedmoor, said a lot about her has changed during the past three months at the home.

"At first I was angry about why God took my baby and I used to worry about what was going to happen to me, but I know now that I have to leave that kind of stuff in the past," she said. "I have tried to make amends and to say I’m sorry."

Mary Brown, who works in housekeeping at a Holiday Inn, completed her six-month stay at the home in the last few weeks. Although she looked forward to moving back home, the recovering crack cocaine addict and alcoholic knew she would have to "stay away from drunks and from drug users."

Besides learning to live in a beautiful home setting, the women are taught skills of entertaining, cleaning house, preparing healthy meals, gardening and flower arranging. They are taught about personal hygiene, proper dress, hair styling and the use of makeup.

But the most important component of their stay is the emphasis on spiritual things. Bible studies are led by Martha Elkins of Raleigh, a former public school teacher who has volunteered at the home since its beginning.

"The spiritual is the most important," she said. "We teach Jesus. This is their only prayer of getting back into society or staying sober. [The daughters] all have problems. They are not any different from all of us who have problems, but they feel like they are different."

Elkins says working with recovering alcoholics and drug users is discouraging at times, because it’s hard for anyone to make significant life changes.

"I have to remember that but for the grace of God there go I," she said. "I try to instill the idea in Psalm 91 of staying in God’s shadow. You have to stay close to be in God’s shadow," she said.

Volunteers play a significant role in making this ministry hum. Jim Nelms of Raleigh, for example, comes to teach the daughters about budgeting and how to manage their money. Claire Swain, another volunteer, has been the coordinator at Mission Store since the ministry began.

Right now, the home is looking for weekend parents, couples who volunteer to stay over the weekend and do such things as take the daughters out for a quick lunch on Saturday and on a special jaunt to area attractions, the art museum in Raleigh or Duke Gardens in Durham.

"One of the things they like to do during spring is go to the Lyons strawberry patch where they make homemade ice cream and just sit around and eat and talk," Darden said.

But one of her favorite stories about the women was what happened last year when Darden sent her brood to a formal ball.

The Granville County Red Cross hosted a ball and Darden suggested that the daughters might like to go. Typically, their first response was, "But we don’t have anything to wear."

And in her usual way, Darden tapped the many friends and resources she has developed over the years in the Granville County area.

"I have so many friends of various sizes. I know I can find dresses and we can ask them to borrow them," she said. "They dressed up and had the best time. They did just fine."

But this ministry, along with other nonprofit organizations, has been hit hard by recession.

"We have no real partners," Darden said. "We are looking for organizations, churches, somebody that would partner with us to help financially as well as to share ideas and to take a different approach to our teaching."

The home’s annual budget to run the home is about $90,000, she said.

By Flo Johnston